End of innocence

With a heavy heart, I pressed the digits on the keypad for my garage door and headed out for a run.

And as I made my way down the street, I struggled to find the right words to justify the fairness or sense in the pain many friends are feeling: one of our own was the innocent victim of a very tragic accident.

On a few occasions, as our circle of friends intertwined, Dave Hawkinson and myself crossed paths. They were friendly and pleasant encounters, and many of my friends recall him as a terrific person. He was memorable and made a positive impact in many people’s lives.

Unfortunately, he died after a car struck his bicycle on a rural stretch of highway near Grandin, N.D., on Saturday. You can read the story here. By all accounts, Dave had done everything right. He couldn’t have done anything differently. And cyclists will continue to ride that stretch of road.

My thoughts and prayers are extended to his wife, Amy, and family, and those who knew Dave much better than myself. He was a light and gift to those who knew him, and his legacy will serve to making many people better off for knowing him. My heart aches for those who knew Dave well.

Tonight, like many other outings on the run, it became painfully obvious: so many people behind the wheel of their vehicles are driving distracted. In two- and three-ton vehicles. And it’s clear that so few people really stop to think about what it is they’re doing, and how life can change in an instant.

Perhaps runners and cyclists understand this better than most.

We have to share the road with others, especially those in steel boxes with wheels. And maybe that’s why I always wave, in gratitude, to those who are willing to move over and give me a few extra feet of space on the road. They may do it out of courtesy, or because there really isn’t much room. Yes, I always try to hug the side of the road, because I’m going to lose the battle every time with a vehicle. But I want to let passing motorists – at least those willing to grant me some space – that I appreciate the gesture. At the same time, though, I can see those who are are looking down at their phones, reading or writing texts, or chatting without paying attention to the road. Or fumbling with their sunglasses or too engaged in conversation with others in the car. It is all too obvious that most people are simply not that attentive to driving.

The simple truth is that there’s almost no way to avoid encounters with drivers. We all make choices. Drivers decide whether to allow themselves to be distracted on the road. Endurance athletes can mitigate the risks, but ultimately, must choose whether the risk is worth the reward. We can’t live in fear of running or riding the roads, but we can educate others about the consequences of distracted driving.

4 thoughts on “End of innocence

  1. “A North Dakota background check on Justin Ronald Jalbert, born in 1987, shows an extensive history of driving offenses dating back to 2006, including driving under the influence of liquor or drugs, speeding, and several instances of driving with a suspended license” Grand Forks Herald:
    I once asked The DMV’s of MN and ND, “Why do you allow someone to license a car if they haven’t a valid drivers license?” The responses I got back were vague and ambiguous. The reality is almost 30% of the vehicles on the road are owned by suspended drivers. These same drivers kill and maim in high speed pursuits, DUI incidents and unintentional reckless acts. Every year, states add millions to their coffers as they conitnue to allow suspended drivers to renew their expired plates and register newly acquired vehicles. Perhaps if MR. Jalbert had been unable to drive his car because the law mandated he turn in his plates, he would have developed a deeper appreciation of the privilage of driving on our roads and maybe that appreciation would have made him a more attentive driver. Maybe.

  2. I really appreciate these comments about distracted driving. I would also like to add that it’s not just distracted drivers of motorized vehicles that pose a dangerous threat. I have had the misfortune of being hit by a bicyclist while I was walking in a cross walk with the white walking symbol illuminated and have had several near misses. I have witnessed several distracted runners and bicyclists swerving out of their designated lanes or darting out into oncoming traffic. I have also witnessed several bicyclists on several occassions riding with no hands on the handlebars while talking on their cellphone and drinking some type of beverage. All at the same time. With no helmet. As the author stated, the runner or bicyclist will lose in a battle with motor vehicles. Even if the driver of a motorized vehicle does everything “right”, it’s not going to end well. I never want to encounter negative outcomes while driving, running, or bicycling and would expect that people don’t put themselves in situations where negative outcomes are increased.

  3. We knew Dave too. Dave touched our lives in a couple ways, and will be sorely missed. My husband & Dave talked about riding when Jim went to Valley Imports. Dave always had time for everyone. I always worry about Jim & the riders we know, especially when they are out on the road. It does not matter that you have a helmet on, or wear the brightest clothing, when drivers are distracted, the runner or cyclist lose! God speed, Dave. . .

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